Packwood Lake makes for a great evening hike – with bug spray

July 1 – As snow flurry adventurers count the minutes until Paradise and other nearby hikes thaw, the trip to Packwood Lake is the perfect early summer getaway.

Minutes from Packwood proper, hikers enter the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and watch Mount Rainier disappear behind the trees. The Chronicle reporters went Wednesday night with the intention of watching the sunset from the lake.

Be warned: despite long pants, long sleeves, and draining bug spray, we still came home with bug bites galore. Other visiting evening hikers would be wise to bring their strongest bug spray.

Mosquito swarms aside, this hike is the perfect combination of length and low elevation to put it firmly in the moderate category.

Before even reaching the pristine lake, hikers experience the thrill of weaving through giant Douglas fir trees tied down with shaggy bark like fireproof armor. Also in the forest, visitors can notice a wide variety of mushrooms and enjoy the sounds of a hungry Pileated Woodpecker.

Once there – if the weather is good – the Goat Rocks tower over the lake and its small island in the center with a brilliant reflection. A bridge takes guests over an emerald green cove to continue moving around the lake.

Alltrails.com says Packwood Lake Trail is 11.9 miles in total, but that includes reaching the end of the lake, which isn’t necessary for great views.

The Packwood Lake Trail can be a hiking, day hike, or even a camping destination. Besides the trail itself, there is access with ATVs for those wishing to camp.

The trail itself goes through the Goat Rocks Wilderness, but since it’s mostly in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, leashed dogs are welcome.

To reach the trailhead from US Highway 12 eastbound, pass through Packwood and turn right onto Snyder Road, continue as it becomes Forest Service Road 1260 and travel approximately 6 miles to the parking lot.

National Forest Service passes can be purchased at Blanton Market just before the bend onto Snyder Road in Packwood.

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